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Ozarks Teacher Corps Wants Good Teachers For Rural Schools

The Ozarks Teacher Corps has received national attention for its work in attracting promising teachers to rural areas, and it's receiving positive press from its home state's teacher group.

The Missouri State Teachers Association featured the program this fall in its School & Community publication.

The Ozarks Teacher Corps is an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and its Rural Schools Partnership. The program, now in its second year, offers $4,000 scholarships to college students who agree to teach in rural school districts in the Missouri Ozarks for at least three years after graduating. Why? Because rural areas such as this one struggle to find good teachers.

The Rural School and Community Trust believed so much in the Rural Schools Partnership and its Ozarks Teacher Corps program that it launched this summer the Center for Midwestern Initiatives, and it hired the former head of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Gary Funk, to lead it.

The center is working with midwestern states on three goals: promoting place-based education, developing charitable assets to support rural education, and growing the pool of talented rural teachers. The Ozarks Teacher Corps was among its key efforts to achieving the latter.

The article about the Ozarks Teacher Corps quotes John White, the U.S. Department of Education's deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach, as saying he observed the program to see whether it could be used as a model to address teacher shortages in other rural areas.

The story also features one of the inaugural members of the Corps, Mykie Nash. Nash graduated from a rural high school of 644 and hopes to teach in a rural district once she graduates. The program launched with 16 teaching candidates, and 15 new participants were added in the spring of 2011. Funk told us earlier this year that its first six students graduated from the program in May, and all were hired in rural areas. One student dropped out of the program, and the student repaid the partnership.

"I feel like it's important for me to teach in that kind of district because that's where I came from," Nash says in the article. "I think smaller rural schools have a really good community element to them."

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